Different opponent, different town, same result. In a near repeat of Tuesday night's loss to the Boston Celtics, the Pacer misfired on offense, and chopped it up on defense. Again, the Pacers kept battling and made a late run, but with no one to take over, the Wizards had no problem rebuffing the effort, to complete a 103-90 win.
The Pacers began the game shooting 7 of 30 from the field. After one quarter, the Wiz were up 28-15. The teams played even on the scoreboard for the final three quarters but all of the clanking and hacking kept the Pacers from making a serious run at the lead, let alone a W.
So what went wrong on defense?
Let's start with the chronic hacking problem the Pacers can't seem to shake. I'll be the first to complain that the Pacers never get the benefit of the doubt from the refs. Seems like any little bump by a Blue and Gold defender draws a quick whistle, while at the other end it can take three or four bumps to draw a call.
But, there are only a handful of questionable calls per game. They certainly don't account for the bulk of obvious fouls committed by the Pacers. So many are cheap reaches, or simply not smart basketball plays.
Case in point, the Pacers had cut a 22 point lead to 15 late in the third quarter. On the Wizards next possession, the Pacers were 20 seconds into a solid defensive stop. Songaila was in a bad position 20 from the hoop and was going to have to force up an awkward jumper. Tweet. Shawne Williams bails Songaila out by jumping into him. Also, Jermaine O'Neal and Danny Granger were caught early in the game with blatant, cheap, and lazy reaches. Those guys are too valuable to pick up bad fouls early.
Now about that shooting problem
The 7 for 30 start was incredible. I know this team is full of streaky shooters, but they seem to be streaky as a collective unit. And it wasn't like they were just jacking up too many threes or bad shots. The Pacers had great looks from all over the gym, but nothing would fall. They missed 3-balls, 18 footers, 10 footers, lay ups, tear drops, bank shots, and free throws. Well, they made most of their free throws, but you get the idea. The shooting improved slightly over the rest of the game, thanks to a couple of hot hands, but nothing to keep up with the Wizards sweet, string music.
Anything good happen? Gilber Arenas and the Wizards looked quite good. Arenas finished with a LoNny-worthy effort of 30 points, 11 assists, and 6 rebounds. My Pacer-centric analysis can't do the Wizards justice. Check out Bullets Forever for an appropriate Wizards recap.
Jermaine O'Neal had a great offensive stretch in the second quarter, single-handedly keeping the Pacers from getting blown out.
Marquis Daniels had his best game of the season, by far. He spearheaded a late run that saw the Pacers draw within 8 points of the Wiz. Quis finished with 19 points, including a couple of threes and 3 steals. Despite missing Tuesday night's game, Quis played heavy minutes and even started the second half in place of Mike Dunleavy.
Post Game Gem
Stacy Paetz interviewed Brendan Haywood after the game which lead to an interesting exchange tha appeared to go unnoticed by Stacy. First a little background. Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood have been holding down the Wizards front court for the past few years. Unfortunately, Thomas developed a serious heart condition that required surgery and has left Haywood to play big minutes for the Wiz. Now, prior to Etan's health issues, the two bigs didn't exactly get along. In fact, they had TWO fights on separate occasions, apparently exchanging blows and everything.
It appears Stacy has no idea about the history between Haywood and Thomas. When asking a well-meaning question about Haywood's production in Thomas' absence, she went with an unfortunate choice of words. Here's the exchange (my comments in parentheses):
Haywood: I think the biggest difference is just consistent minutes, the coaching staff has more confidence in me. We're short some people inside (at this point I thought, man, he can't even say Etan's name, even under the unfortunate circumstances) so they just have to roll with me and I've been able to produce so far for this team.
Stacy: Speaking of, you used to tag team with Etan Thomas. Have you spoken to him, how's he doing? (wait, did she just say, tag team. They went to a highlight so we couldn't see Haywood's face. But I sure felt uncomfortable.)
Haywood: (coming out of a little pause, as if he realizes she's not referencing their fights and is asking a serious question.) Ummm, we haven't spoken, I haven't spoken with him (I honestly thought his next words would be, in fact, I don't even like Etan), we sent a card out to him to say best wishes. We're wishing him the best and a speedy recovery.